We are told that Aunty ABC is the impartial perspective, the media source that will show us the truth but all too often Aunty ABC disappoints. This time – the reporting of the devastation being experienced by Walpiri mob is reprehensible – writes Jack Gibson.
I was disappointed, dismayed and disgusted in ABC News for their part in the valorization and maintenance of white privilege and the demonisation of Aboriginal people, in the article – “Police officer charged with murder over teen’s shooting death in Yuendumu” – in relation to the shooting death of Kumanjayi Roberts. The article was, on the one hand, victim blaming and on the other, hero worshipping. Who got blamed; ‘the black victims’, who were the heroes, the white enforcement and caring professionals? For an organisation that prides itself on giving a balanced view the ABC dismally failed this time. The balance was blatantly uneven.
According to the ABC news article, had the Aboriginal community members of Yuendumu not misbehaved, by trying to break into the Yuendumu clinic, staff of the Royal Flying Doctors Service would not have feared for their lives, and would have arrived sooner, in the hope of saving the young Aboriginal man, Kumanjayi Roberts’, life. But what of the actions of the police and the ensuing shooting of Kumanjayi Roberts in the first instance? Had the police officers not taken such drastic and superfluous action there would have been no need for medical professionals. Somehow it becomes the fault of the Aboriginal community that the young man died. The tone of this argument implicates Aboriginal people as the arbiters of their own misery and demise; a dominant and perpetual trope in the construction of the deficit Aboriginal person. Such an argument is predicated on white supremacist ideology.
I don’t mean white supremacy of the KKK kind. I mean the supremeness of whiteness as entrenched in the very racialised Australian systems and institutions that maintain oppression over, and positions Aboriginal people into some fabricated social order.
The article goes on to mention two occasions where statements were made by the NT police and Chief Minister. The statements, in reference to their reticence to breach confidence said, as quoted, “no further information will be released” and “as this matter is before the court, no further information will be released”, respectively. However, Gunner’s reticence to ‘not’ “offer any commentary” immediately gave way to his sense of victimhood and as such, his need to maintain and justify his, and others, privileged white position. Informed by his fear of his deteriorating white privilege, Gunner proudly enunciated his hero-worship of the valiant efforts of all NT police who go above and beyond the call of duty to protect. He especially justified the actions of the alleged murderer, Rolphe, by implying that the was only doing his job as a brave and fearless police officer. Gunner further bolsters the white privileged position by bringing to attention the brave, fearless and nonchalant act of Rolphe as [white] saviour; of hapless tourists, in this case. Gunner wants us to believe that the hero Rolphe, could not possibly perpetrate the heinous act of shooting a person, without good cause. After all, he was just doing his job, which according to Gunner was “more critical than ever to remember”. So much more critical that such remembrance diminishes the death of the young Aboriginal man it seems.
Such valorisation is a foundational pillar of white privilege.
It is what the white nation uses, not only to justify their actions but to maintain their positions of power and the status quo.
Subsequently, the actions of Rolphe were racist, the justification for his actions, by Gunner, was certainly racially-based. If it looks and smells like racism, then be assured it is racism. But that is how white privilege works. The default of our society, according to Dr. Robin DiAngelo, is the reproduction of racism. It is built into every system and every institution. If we [white Australia] just live our lives and carry on in the most comfortable ways for us, we will necessarily reproduce it. Yes, Australia is racist! There is no neutral space, inaction is a form of action. Racism is a system that we are all a part of. It operates to maintain the oppression of the racial non-white other backed up by social or institutional power.
So, what of Gunner’s “no more information will be released” political point scoring speech. What influence does this type of perpetual speech have on unsuspecting and potential jury members, that might and possibly will take Gunner’s words as gospel. What does it mean for the justice system, what does it mean for race relations in Australia and what does it mean for those seeking justice, in a system that privileges whiteness?
The ABC News is, in my view, complicit in maintaining the very structural inequities that continue to oppress and this eternal deficit perception of Aboriginal people, which informs much of white Australia’s thinking and actions. Aboriginal incarceration rates and Aboriginal deaths in custody have not increased because the police want to protect us. Australia, it’s time to wake up and take the white blinders off.